Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Marine Corps Restricts Use of Emblems and Terms

Normally I would limit the content of this blog as much as possible to matters of public history. On occasion I do want to share with you some concerns that arise in my "day job" over at http://www.militaryvetshop.com/. Historians communicate to the public through writing, documentaries, websites, and museum displays. Therefore, issues of copyright and trademark do come up on occasion, so I think you will find the following information interesting:

The availability of t-shirts and coffee mugs with any reference to the United States Marine Corps (USMC) might be seriously curtailed. Recently the USMC, from their newly created Trademark Licensing Office, has claimed trademark rights on all emblems and terms that might reference the Corps. This includes the word “Marine” and any reference to Marine Veterans. The claim also encompasses terms like “USMC,” and even “Semper Fi.”

Each of the military services has always protected the use of the service seals representing the Department of the Army, the Department of the Navy, etc. This is allowed in Federal Statutes and it is understandable to prevent an organization from inferring that they officially represent one of the branches of the military. However, there has never been any claim to copyright or trademark of terms against those designs that represent the military in a positive light and with respect to veterans. Civilian companies have always created products that celebrate the service of veterans without the requirement of licensing. With the advent of print-on-demand (POD) technology and Internet sales, these designs and products have multiplied to unimaginable numbers. It would easily be assumed that terminology that refers to the military branches, or emblems created by these government organizations would be in the public domain and free to use by anyone. Apparently, that is not true anymore.

In December of 2007, the Department of Defense (DOD) initiated a directive for each service to “establish a branding and trademark licensing office to manage and coordinate a DOD-wide brand development and trademark licensing program.” You can read that Directive here: http://www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/corres/pdf/553509p.pdf. The other services have exercised restraint in the application of this directive. For example, the Department of the Army enforces trademark on the Department of the Army seal and any copyright enforcement on shoulder sleeve insignia is delegated to the unit commander. The Air Force, so far, has chosen to only enforce their trademark on their seal, and the “high wings” emblem that you see on recruiting commercials.

The Marine Corps, however, has really taken the ball and run with it. They established their trademark office in July of 2009. Currently they are contacting print-on-demand companies and requesting that ANY design that refers to the USMC in ANY WAY, be removed from the site until a usage license is obtained from the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps was contacted directly and a representative stated that no licenses had been issued yet. Nevertheless, they were serious about enforcing what they saw as their trademark rights. When a license is issued, it will cost $1,000 to apply and a minimum of $5,000 per year in royalties. This figure puts most of us little guys out of business. For example, Military Vet Shop only earns a couple of hundred dollars per year on USMC veteran items, despite our loyal customers who wear our designs with pride.

Military Vet Shop uses two POD providers, Cafepress and Zazzle. We post on two different sites so that we can offer our customers a larger number of products and styles from which to choose. Currently, Zazzle is systematically searching their product database for any USMC designs and deleting them, with only an email notification to the designer that the removal was at the request of the Marine Corps. With no communication coming from Zazzle, the information in this article was gathered from other websites and the Zazzle seller forums. Within a few days we will no longer be able to offer any USMC veteran items on Zazzle.

So far, no action has been taken by Cafepress. We assume, and hope, that they are negotiating a collective license agreement for all designers who post their work on the Cafepress website. This is the option that we wish Zazzle had chosen, rather than becoming intimidated by the issue.

The USMC is perfectly within their rights to enforce a trademark that is specifically laid out in a federal law that allows them to do so. Even if the license fees go into the USMC Morale and Welfare Fund, we are still very disappointed in the direction the Marine Corps has decided to take. We think the morale of the veterans we honor is important too. It saddens us to see the “corporatization” of any of our military services.

If you would like to read more about this issue, here are some links for you:
Marine Corps Trademark Office, FAQs:
http://www.marines.mil/unit/divpa/tmlo/Pages/faq.aspx
Federal Statute authorizing trademark of terms:
http://law.justia.com/us/cfr/title32/32-5.1.1.7.33.0.37.6.html
A simple (and short) explanation of trademark and copyright:
http://www.lawmart.com/forms/difference.htm

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

National Day of Listening

My history buddy, Susan with the Friends of the Ballard Locks, sent out an email reminding me that November 27th this year, besides being the biggest shopping day, is also designated as the “National Day of Listening” sponsored by the Story Corps. The object of the National Day of Listening is to encourage you to take an hour and record the memories of a relative or friend. They tell you how to go about recording it or just taking notes and if you like, submit it to Story Corps. If you have never checked out the Story Corps website or listened to one of their broadcasts on NPR, then I highly encourage you to do so. I believe that everyone has an interesting story to tell, if you just ask the right questions.

I have some experience with this. In 2007, I took the opportunity to interview my dad. He’s a Korean War veteran with the 187th Airborne and I wanted to record his experiences in the army. Admittedly, I had to ask him three times before he would sit down with a tape recorder going, but he did it. I was motivated to get his story by an oral history class I had taken and the knowledge that we are losing so many veterans every day. There are projects all over the country to record veteran’s oral history interviews, the two most prominent being the Veteran’s History Project at the Library of Congress, and my favorite, the Veteran’s Survey Program at the Army’s Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, PA. Long story short (too late!), I did the interviews and wrote an article about his experiences that the History Channel Magazine was gracious enough to print.


However, he had more interesting experiences with history than I, or he, realized. I don’t really remember how it came up in conversation, but I asked what it was like during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 (I was only about a year and a half old at the time). He told me that he was working in a grocery store in Hollywood, California at the time. Sure enough, the American public was in a panic about the possibility of a nuclear war. There was a run on the grocery store with people buying up everything they could to stock up for the apocalypse they thought was on the way. Dad told me he had to stay at the store for 4 nights stocking the shelves as quickly as they could unload the trucks. Moreover, the punch line was that after the crisis was over, many people tried to return all of the groceries they had bought!

My dad didn’t think that story was very historically significant. However, all I had ever read about the crisis was the political side and the military side. There might have been a mention of a terrified public, but my dad’s story put a face on that aspect of the event. It made it real.

Therefore, during the holidays, when you have your extended family around the house, and the meal is over and everyone is sitting around talking. Take the time to ask the questions. And listen.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The "Fall of the Wall." Has it really been twenty years?!


Along with Veteran’s Day, November brings another day of remembrance with a great deal of significance to Cold War Veterans. November 9th marks the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. While many remember the Berlin Wall from popular media, few non-veterans realize that the “iron curtain” was also represented by the inner German border that separated East from West Germany and West Germany from Czechoslovakia. Few who did not serve in Europe understood the threat that was posed by Warsaw Pact forces and the number of troops we maintained in West Germany for decades.


I remember that day in 1989. I watched on television with amazement at the people crawling all over the wall. I had returned to the United States exactly one year prior to that date after spending a three-year tour in Fulda, Germany patrolling the East German border with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. When I left the Blackhorse in 1988 there were no indications that only one year later the Wall (or the "Fence" as we called it) would come down and the two Germanys would reunify only one year after that. For me, and the army, the “Fall of the Wall” changed our mindset forever and ushered in a new post Cold War era.


While what would become NATO forces had faced off with Soviet armies since the close of World War II, the border fence and the Berlin Wall was not constructed until 1961. Before its construction, approximately 3.5 million East Germans had fled to the West. Approximately 5000 people tried to escape the East during its existence. Estimates of those killed vary widely between 98 and 200. I know from my own experience that between 30 to 50 people each year would escape across the border in our sector during the years I was serving with the 11th ACR.


In November of 1989, after only a few weeks of unrest in East Germany, the government announced that it would ease travel restrictions to the West. When asked at a news conference on the morning of November 9th when that law would take effect, a government official said that he assumed immediately. Spontaneously, thousands of East and West German citizens crossed the border and climbed on the wall, and activity that would have gotten them shot only hours before. A mass celebration erupted that quickly ushered in the reunification of the two Germanys and the dissolving of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact.


Now those Cold War days are all but forgotten. However, those times changed a lot of us. Everyone who served from WWII through the 1990s had a part in winning the Cold War and defeating the Soviet Block. To honor that service, I asked Sheila to create a graphic commemorating the date for our store Military Vet Shop. There is a generic version as well as a patch version that is currently made with 11th ACR and 2nd ACR patches. If you’d like your unit patch placed on that design, just let us know. Remember the day.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Plan for Veterans Day

Sheila and I were working on our newsletter for Military Vet Shop and I decided to do a short article on Veterans Day. I thought I might share a few of those thoughts (and a few more) with you here. Veterans Day means a lot to me. Not for myself, but for our veterans. I think it is one of the most overlooked federal holidays we have. One where we have to remind ourselves what it was created for. As our veteran population decreases in this country, I think we are in danger of loosing the meaning of the day. Is it because there is not a 3-day weekend associated with it? Or do non-veterans confuse the intent of the day with Memorial Day? I'm not sure.

I enjoy meeting veterans. Perhaps it is because I am one, or because I like history and most all veterans have a story to tell. I don't get to meet that many any more, so I thought there weren't that many of us around. But I just checked out the VA website, and found out that it's not true. There are a lot of us around. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are approximately 23.8 million living veterans in the United States. Women make up 7.5 percent of that number. Spouses and dependent children of living veterans and survivors of deceased veterans make up another 37 million Americans. Together those groups make up about 20 percent of the U.S. population. While those are big numbers, it is still an exclusive club. November 11th of each year is the day we set aside to honor the service and sacrifice of our living veterans.

Veterans Day has its roots in what was called “Armistice Day.” While World War I ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919, most people assume it was the day of the cessation of hostilities. Germany and the Allied nations agreed that fighting would end on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. The following year, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first observance of “Armistice Day” on November 11, 1919. For some reason, after the carnage of "The Great War," a lot of folks thought that we'd never have another one and called it "the war to end all wars." After 27 states had made the day a legal state holiday, Congress echoed President Wilson’s proclamation in 1926, and then passed a law creating a federal holiday in 1938.

Originally, Armistice Day was created to honor the veterans of WWI and to set aside a day “to be dedicated to the cause of world peace.” However, by 1954 the country had survived World War II, which had required the greatest mobilization of armed forces in our history, and the end of hostilities in Korea. Congress passed Public Law 380, which President Eisenhower enthusiastically signed, making November 11th of each year a federal holiday that would be called “Veterans Day” to honor all of our living veterans.

For a few years, starting in 1971, we tried moving Veterans Day to the closest Monday to the eleventh in order to create a three-day weekend. It didn’t work out too well. It was made obvious to Congress that this day has great historical, patriotic, and emotional significance to many of our people. A law was passed changing the official observance of Veterans Day back to the way it originally was. Since 1978 we have honored our veterans on November 11th regardless of what day of week it falls on.

Remember that Memorial Day is to honor those who have fallen in war. Veterans Day was created to recognize all of our veterans for their service. On this coming November 11th, take the opportunity to say "thank you" to an American veteran. If you are a veteran, then thank another vet. Because no one understands better than a fellow veteran. Since the day a WWII veteran thanked me for my service, I've never looked at the day the same.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Road Trip and Relocate

With apologies for taking so long to get this post up. My part in the project at the Ballard Locks is complete. However, the work to be done there is not. I am leaving the project in the capable hands of the Friends of the Hiram Chittenden Locks. This group of volunteers, most of whom are not natives of the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, have stepped up to give back to the community and the home that they have adopted. Since our project started, the Friends have put in over 600 volunteer hours scanning slides and photos, cleaning storage rooms full of manuscripts and artifacts, and organizing a first class history group from the ground up. It was a privilege to know this fine group of people. Stay up-to-date on their progress at their website or their blog. If you're in the Seattle area, contact them and help out.

The completion of the internship project at the Locks also completed the requirements for my MA in Applied History at Shippensburg University. (As a matter of fact, my diploma arrived yesterday in the mail!) I also can't say enough good things about the faculty, staff, and students in this program. A lot of people have asked me what I'm going to do with a masters degree. My career goal was always to be an independent historian and do some writing. If you share this goal, I can't recommend a better "basic training" for nonfiction writing than pursuing a graduate degree.
Along those lines I wanted to be closer (relative to the west coast) to some of the archives I will need to visit for upcoming projects. More importantly, I was just not cut out for living in the big city. I love to visit them, but when it comes to where I live, I need to be in the country. With our "day jobs" as computer consultants and providing graphic designs for veterans, we are free to travel and relocate more or less where we want and when we want. So Sheila, Meaghan, Sydney and I have moved again. We're now near Harbor Springs, Michigan. That's right, up by the "tip of the mitt"! The countryside is beautiful here and okay, I'll just say it, the Lake Michigan shore is prettier than the Puget Sound. Our first morning here we had deer in the front yard. My kind of place. I'm wondering where Michigan has been all of my life. It's been a well kept secret from the rest of the country. Of course, the army would have never sent me to such a nice place. So it was only by accident and the grace of the Internet that we found it.
I'll fill you in on the history of this area as I learn it myself. It's great to be in an area that I've never been to before. The folks up here in rural Michigan are very friendly and compared to Seattle the traffic is non-existent. And to top it all off, I'm east of the Mississippi, which means that from here it's only about twelve hours of driving to the National Archives in D.C. And, oh by the way, I already have my frequent shopper card for ACE Hardware. More to follow. ;-)
The top picture of the opening of the Government Locks in Seattle, 1916, is courtesy of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, and scanned by volunteers. The other two are proof that we are indeed in Michigan, courtesy of my daughter Meaghan, who was in the U-haul with Sheila that followed Sydney and I across the country. The first is of us crossing the Mackinac Bridge from the Upper Peninsula to Lower Michigan. The second is of our arrival in Harbor Springs on September 1st.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Two meetings for August

The internship is coming to an end this month. I'm working on the last paper now. But that doesn't mean that our project at the Locks is slowing down at all. Last month our volunteer group has decided to use the proper name of the facility, so we are now the "Friends of the Hiram Chittenden Locks." We've also had some new volunteers join our group since last months meeting. We will have two meetings this month, August 6th and August 27th, both at 6:30 pm. On one of those meetings we'll have a tour of our artifacts stored in the Administrative Building, and on the other we'll tour the displays at the Visitor's Center. Of course we are working on the business of setting up a new historical society, so we will also be discussing bylaws and new project goals for the group. Anyone interested in volunteer and joining our group is welcome to attend. For more information, contact our new President, Susan Connole at susanatthelocks@gmail.com. Here's our new mission statement, adopted at the last meeting:

The Friends of the Chittenden Locks endeavors to identify, preserve, and make available records and papers, images, film and artifacts of enduring historical value concerning the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, Carl S. English, Jr. Botanical Garden, and the Lake Washington Ship Canal. The Friends perform this mission as individual volunteers for the Seattle District of the US Army Corps of Engineers with the common bonds of a desire to document the history of these sites and serve the local community.
The Hiram Chittenden Locks, known locally as the Ballard Locks, has been an institution in the area since it's inception. So much so that it has made it's way into the local pop culture many times. Here's an example found by one of our members on YouTube. Back in the 80s and 90s there was a local sketch comedy show on Seattle television called Almost Live. This was a very funny show, in my humble opinion, and they took turns poking fun at each of Seattle's unique neighborhoods. Here is a segment of the show that has a go at Ballard's Nordic Heritage, and reputation (at the time) for a lack of sophistication. There are several scenes in this short clip of the Locks and a couple of USACE employees even get to make a cameo appearance. Click here to watch it on YouTube.

So far since the start of this project last spring, we have scanned approximately 1200 photos and 2500 slides! Thank you to all our volunteers who have come in to do some scanning. We still have a long way to go, we're not even at the halfway point yet. I thought I would share a couple of images from our slide collection this month. The first image is of the rhodies in bloom to remind you that the Hiram Chittenden Locks is also home to the Carl English Garden. Our second image might come under the category of "strange things seen going through the Locks." It's a house being moved by barge. Both images are provided courtesy of the US Army Corps of Engineers and were scanned by Friends of the Hiram Chittenden Locks.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

July Updated

You might be wondering where I've been. All I can offer is the same excuse we all use: I've been busy. No, I really have! In my last post I told you about taking Dr. Burg's online course in Archives. Well, a ton of reading and writing, six weeks later, and Bob's your uncle, I'm done with the course. I had some great discussions online with my fellow students and really learned a lot. The standards of this online class were every bit as high as an in-person class. If I haven't told you enough about it before, go check out the MA in Applied History program at Shippensburg University. It's a great program taught by some really great people.

What's happening with the Locks Project? Great things! Back on June 18th we held the inaugural meeting of the "Friends of the Ballard Locks." We've elected a President, Vice President, and Secretary (none of them me, on purpose, as I will be leaving the area at the end of the summer). We've talked about goals for the project and organization. And what do you know, the second meeting is tonight.

We started a tradition of putting our meeting minutes and agenda into an archive box to go along with all the cool stuff we're finding that documents the history of the Hiram Chittenden Locks and the Carl English Garden. We've found a lot of neat artifacts from the construction era (1913-1917) that includes a surveyor's transit. We've discovered a binder full of newspaper clippings from that era and into the 30s and 40s as well. As a group we've scanned approximately 2000 slides and photo prints. But there is so much more to do. If you'd like to get in on this, contact our new President, Susan Connole at susanatthelocks@gmail.com.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

We're on YouTube!

Other than what I call my "day job" (IT Consulting, http://www.ridinthewave.com/ and the Vet Shop, http://www.militaryvetshop.com/), my life this summer is pretty much dominated by the project at the Ballard Locks. The Summer Term has started back at Shippensburg University so now my volunteering takes on the form of an internship for credit toward my masters degree. I'm also taking an online course about archives, which happens to be taught by my graduate advisor, Dr. Steven Burg.

Since the online class is taught through Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, and I assume that the rest of the class live locally, there will be a couple of "in-person" class meetings. Obviously, spending the summer here in Seattle, I will not be able to attend. In lieu of that, Dr. Burg asked that I make a YouTube video introducing myself to the class. That turned out to be a fun weekend project. Although I really hate seeing myself in pictures or video, I'd like to share it with you (here if the embed is not working):





So, hello to all the folks I'll be chatting with in my online class this summer. We're making great progress with our slide and photo scanning. Aproximately 1500 images scanned so far. We've also started cleaning and organizing one of the storage rooms that we'll use for our archives. We'll be having our first volunteer organization meeting (working name of the group is "Friends of the Ballard Locks) on June 18th, at 6:30 pm at the Locks. Contact us for more details if you'd like to attend. Anyone interested is welcome. And as always, if you are in the Seattle area and would like to volunteer some time to our project, please contact me at jim@ridinthewave.com.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Jim and Michelle's Excellent Adventure

Update on the Ballard Locks Project

Last week Michelle and I went on a field trip to the Seattle District Headquarters of the Corps of Engineers. The Seattle District covers an area that includes the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and western Montana. The Seattle District is the next step in the chain of command, leadership, management, and support for the Hiram Chittenden Locks and the Carl S. English Gardens. It is an enormous facility and I felt like the country boy gone to the big city.

Michelle and I took this trip in order to meet some of the players in key departments like Public Affairs, Records, Information Technology, and the District Library. My thanks to Casondra Brewster in Public Affairs for showing us around and introducing us to who we needed to meet. The good news is that there are funds available for us to have some of the 35mm film we have on hand previewed and if appropriate, digitized. Further, if we have records that need to be stored elsewhere to make room at the Locks, we know who to talk to for that.

Now the bad news for us as well as most other government agencies. Due to funding and staff cuts, there are very few, if any, dedicated staff for archiving records or historical activities, especially at the lowest levels of the agencies. Best example is our project here at the Locks. It seems that the usual effort for the archival, or just plain storage, of records is bottom driven to make room for more paper. And given those same budget constraints mentioned, actual archival activities must rely heavily on volunteers or it just won't get done.

The end result is that we now know that once our volunteers have finished scanning the photos and slide collections, the digitized collection can be added to a database maintained by the District. However, the photos themselves could be sent to storage with the District, but it doesn't sound like the optimal location. I think it will be preferrable to keep them on site. After all, where would you look for a photo collection of the Ballard Locks?

Our pictures on this post are both courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Hiram Chittenden Locks. The top photo is of a December snow in 1946. The second is of a seaplane forced to land in a snowstorm in the Puget Sound in February of 1947, that took passage through the Locks. If you are interested in helping to bring the rest of this photo collection online, please contact me at jim@ridinthewave.com


Monday, April 27, 2009

Moving Through The Locks

Through the closets and shelves at the Locks that is. Our project of creating an archive out of the collections at the Ballard Locks is gaining momentum. The wonderful folks over at the MyBallard.com community forum posted a call for volunteers for us back on April 9th. The response was fantastic! Within minutes the offers to help started dropping into my inbox.

Unfortunately, right now we only have access to the facilities during the work week. So we have a few folks waiting in the wings to help us out in the evenings and on weekends once we get that worked out. However, we now have a crew of eight (8) volunteers signing up during the week to scan slides and photos. We also have a couple more who might join us shortly. My thanks to all of the volunteers who give of their time to help out with the project!

We've set up a Google Group in order to post messages and updates to all of the volunteers. We're also utilizing a Google Calendar to sign up for our scanning session. (Thank you, Amanda, for setting those up for us!) Basically we've divided up the work week into morning and afternoon work periods. Volunteers sign up for a work period on the calendar. Then they come in anytime during that period and put in as much time as they can spare, usually two to three hours. We might tighten up the schedule as more volunteers join us, but for now it is working out great. We have a talented and motivated group of volunteers with some great ideas. I could never do this project without them.


When it comes to setting up an archive, I will admit to being a rank amateur. I've researched in them, but I've never worked in one. I guess that is what makes this a good internship. I will be taking an online class this summer on Archive Management from Dr. Burg at Shippensburg University this summer. Nevertheless, like anything else I want to do and don't know how, I head for the library or Amazon. Currently, I'm reading "Managing Historical Records Programs" by Bruce Dearstyne. It's not nearly as dry as it might sound. In the first chapter, the author reviews the eight functions that archivists carry out. I thought they would make excellent mission goals for our project, so I'd like to share them with you:

1. Acting as agents of the present and the past for the future. All I can say is that I owe a debt of gratitude to those who saved documents, artifacts, and photos and those who determined that they were worth saving. I hope we can do the same.

2. Partnering in the information field. There is no point in saving the information if it is not in a usable form. That means our work is not complete until we've created finding aids and databases.

3. Organizing and managing coherent, comprehensive programs. Dearstyne says that archivists are not only custodians of important materials, but also program managers. There is no "Lone Arranger" here. This requires a team effort.

4. Deciding which records have enduring value and therefore warrant continuing retention. This is important to keep in mind as we work with Corps of Engineer staff to determine what is "archival." We will not need, or should not, keep everything. A lesson we are already learning with duplicate slides.

5. Asserting control and order. This is straightforward. There currently is no systematic approach to storage and organization.

6. Preserving and protecting. Again, very straightforward. Some artifacts and documents are not being properly stored.

7. Fostering access and use. This is very important in that once the collections are inventoried and organized, we must determine how to make it available to the public.

8. Broadening awareness and support. As this group of volunteers move on with their lives, we need to pass on the responsibility of caring for, and adding to, these collections to an ever changing group of new, motivated volunteers.

And finally I'd leave you with another piece of wisdom from this book. The author quotes an AASLH technical leaflet discussing leadership in an historical records program: "Programs must avoid 'obsolete traditions of elitism and aloofness' and be open to new ideas. While stored at the Hiram Chittenden Locks, and currently worked on by eight volunteers and one or two staff members, the history these collections represent belongs to everyone.

Friday, April 3, 2009

April Updates on the Ballard Locks Project

We're off to a good start on scanning slides and photos down at the Ballard Locks project. (Take a look at the March 9th post to get the low down) Welcome to Susan Connole, who has joined us to help with scanning the slide collection, which I estimate to be around 3000 images. Glad to have the help. Thanks, Susan!

On March 27th we had a visit from my friend Dr. John Bloom, who is a professor of history at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. Dr. Bloom was out here in Seattle for the Organization of American Historians conference and he took a few hours out to come tour the Locks and take a look at what we are trying to do. He had some good input and suggestions for us. It actually made me feel better to hear him say that the project was overwhelming. I was afraid I was the only one who was thinking that! But as they say, we'll eat this elephant one bite at at time. And I know I'll be getting more volunteers to join us soon. Here's a picture for you of (from left) Dr. Bloom, myself, and Michelle McMoran who is the gardener and volunteer scheduler at the Carl English Garden. Click here to view more pictures from Dr. Bloom's visit.

Just a reminder that all the photos you find on this site are courtesy of either me, Jim Broumley, or the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, United States Army Corps of Engineers. If you use them, please give photo credit. Right now we need more volunteers to help with scanning photos and slides, or conducting inventory of documents and artifacts. No experience necessary. If you are in the Seattle area and would like to help, contact me, Jim Broumley at jim@ridinthewave.com. We'll post our project updates on this blog. Stay tuned!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Project started, volunteers needed!

A most exciting project is starting to gain steam. We have talked before about the “un-cataloged” archives at the Ballard Locks and Carl English Gardens. I have started a project that will benefit the Corps of Engineers, the local community, future visitors, and…me. I need an internship project to complete the requirements for my MA in History from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. (Sheila and I were on walkabout in 06/07 and found ourselves in Carlisle, so I went back to school. Long story) The Corps of Engineers, who run the facilities, needs volunteers to inventory and create finding aids for the collections at the Ballard Locks. I will be working with Michelle McMorran, gardener and volunteer coordinator at the Carl English Garden. Here’s what we are planning on accomplishing between now and the end of the summer:

- Inventory all photo collections, documents, and artifacts while creating finding aids by subject.

- Create a volunteer organization to fundraise for specific equipment and supplies, and recruit volunteers for the history project and gardens.

- Scanning all photos and slides in the collections (thousands!)

- Conduct several oral history interviews of former staff and volunteers

Eventually, we would like to see all of the finding aids and a database of the photos be available for convenience to the public online. For the garden side, our long-term goal is a new website showcasing photos of all of the plants in different seasons.

We’ll use this blog to keep you up to date on our progress. Read along with us and see how we do. Feel free to offer suggestions and (hopefully) encouragement. I've just gotten started scanning a huge collection of 35mm slides. Some of those pictures are in this post.

Obviously, there is a great deal of work to be done, and I can’t possibly accomplish this alone. Besides, the point is to organize a system of volunteers that will be caretakers of the Locks and Gardens and pass along this responsibility and privilege to others to continue after we’ve all moved on. As it should be with all historical sites and archives.

If you would like to help with scanning slides and photos, or working with creating a historical archive, please contact me, Jim Broumley, at jim@ridinthewave.com. This will be a unique opportunity for us to create an archive from scratch and really "do history."

If you would like to volunteer in the Carl English Garden (green thumb not required), please contact Michelle McMorran at Michelle.K.Mcmorran@usace.army.mil, or (206) 789-2622 ext 216. My wife, Sheila, volunteers in the garden and greenhouse and she has a blast “getting her green on.” Michelle is super nice and a wellspring of horticulture knowledge. So go get your hands dirty. ;-)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Worst Job and One of the Best Jobs

A couple of things that I found interesting in the news this past week:

I suppose I started following this premise that George W. Bush will be considered the worst President in U.S. history back in ’06 with the article in Rolling Stone. I’m not a regular reader of this particular periodical, but I must admit the caricature of the President wearing a dunce hat on the cover of the magazine really piqued my interest.

This idea that George Bush will be honored as the worst President came up again as I was watching CBS Sunday Morning. According to the story, it seems that “In a 2006 Siena College survey of 744 history professors, 82% rated President Bush below average, or a failure.” Back in April of 2008, George Mason University’s History News Network website conducted an informal poll of 109 historians. An incredible 98% considered Mr. Bush a failed president. And 61% said that he is one of the worst in American history. That’s quite an honor considering some of his fellow contenders like Buchanan, Harding, and Nixon. Oh! And with the recent downturn in the economy, Hoover is getting a lot of press lately.

Now it’s time for the good news. The employment website CareerCast.com recently researched and ranked 200 jobs. They have determined that Historian is rated the seventh (7th) best job in America! The jobs were ranked by income and employment outlook as well as other factors like job stress, working environment, and physical peril. Apparently, being a Mathematician (the number one rated job) is a lot better in all of these factors, including safety. But hey, maybe it really is cool to be a historian.

Update: I finally made it over to the Pacific Region of NARA here in Seattle. Not only did I find what I was looking for – original garden maps for the Carl English Gardens at the Ballard Locks – but the customer service was FANTASTIC. My thanks to archivists Kathleen Crosman and Patty McNamee as well as Senior Records Analyst Leslie Malek. These individuals not only helped me find what I needed there at the National Archives, but also got on the computer and found information at other archives and libraries. I was so impressed by the service and professionalism that I’m going to volunteer there.